Saying goodbye was the hardest thing. I was not ready to leave but I had to. “Tsy hitatao.” I got to say bye to people but it was rushed. They knew it was coming, and it went much better than I expected. I still just wasn’t ready, mbola tamana. People expressed sadness to see me go and I felt the same. We talked about how we would miss each other. It wouldn’t be the same. I knew the relationships I had at that moment would never be like they were in that moment again.
I think they best way to describe saying goodbye is through the stories of the following people. We had built relationships, routines, understandings, trust, and traditions together. We knew how to handle each other. We knew the other’s ways, attitudes, beliefs, and ways of expressing those as well, which vary greatly by country, and we did not understand much of this about each other at the beginning. I had spent two independence days eating chicken with these people. I knew their children, exes, and parents. We were a family.
My neighbors and students came to say bye, help clean up, take a souveneir.
Pictured above left: Bitska, Emma, Eliza, Nicole
Right: le vazaha, Bitska again, Maman’ny Patricia holding Adrienne, her son
Emma and Eliza, two of my favorite girls, who were members of my Youth and Girls Clubs, and my favorite neighbor, Nicole, look at my photo album. Looking at my pictures was a favorite past time with new friends, and sometimes old, when the kids wanted to re-look at pictures.
Bitska (left), my 13-year-old neighbor would carry his 1-year-old little brother, Adrienne, to my house at dusk with their sister, Patricia, 6, and we’d hang out while their mom was finishing cooking their dinner. Sometimes I was preparing my food, just ate, or even still eating. Usually they would just keep me company as I shredded carrots.
As you can see from the second picture, on the right, my house turned into a madhouse with people coming from all over to say bye and hopefully collect a voandalana, or souveneire, too. Some people like my Doctor brought me gifts, too. It was very emotional and I miss them everyday.
Nicole, who I have mentioned since my first blog at site, inherited my kitchen utensils, some of my most precious belongings. That’s the inside of my kitchen as I left.
My GLOW campers came over to help me clean and pack. Emma here was going to be the new Youth Club President, I had hoped. She was almost 18 and super confident, and a great peer educator. So proud of the growth I saw in her.
Adrienne, who lived across the street, was 3 months old when I arrived. He was born on Valentine’s Day. Here he is 1 and a half. I watched him grow up before my eyes. I weighed him at baby weighings and watched him eat more rice than I’ve ever seen a not even two-year-old eat!! He was one of the babies’ health I monitored closely over the two years because we lived in such close proximity to reach other.
Madame Charlene (left) and Kelly, her grand daughter (right). I had to visit Madame Charlene before I left. She worked at the hospital, sometimes we filled out immunization cards together. She was a saint and helped so much in my work and understanding people. I love her.
Nicole always fed me lunch when I went over to her house after working at the hospital. She was also the head AC, or Community Health Worker who distributed medicine to all 26 CHWs in collaboration with PSI. She was my really good friend – we’d talk about life as we ate and napped in her house.
Emma, one of my four GLOW Campers, came to hang out with me and say goodbye.
Madame Charlene, the hospital’s assistant, Rasazy, the midwife, and a community health worker from a village 18 kilometers from the town, traveled on a dug out wooden canoe. He was super gentle, soft spoken and serious.
Maro Antoine, who I called mar’omby because he had a big cow and his wife. Corn harvest season was back! My neighbors’ yards were covered in corn when I went to say bye. They harvest corn and sold for 15 cents a cup. It was a lot of work, I learned, and it made your hands hurt. I spent my last day helping shuck corn with everyone as we sat around after lunch.
The day I was leaving, my friend, Mena, had her baby! Her Mom, Maman’ny Mena became a good friend of mine when she lived across the street from me, and I fetched water at their compound’s well. She was loud and boisterous and quickly a favorite among my Peace Corps friends. She would always tell me, “Nahita Eddy zaho.” “I saw Eddy!”, who was one of my peace corps neighbors. She was so friendly and fun to talk up and she’d let me try her food. She moved houses to live by the taxi bus station to make money and sell fried bread, but we continued to see each other and say hi. I would pass her going out of town on my bike as I avoided the cows and camions to visit Julia.
These girls, Tina who’s 8 (left) and Kila who’s 6 (right), would always come over to my house to draw and hang out. Their moms sold food at the taxi brousse station, so they were always passing my house walking from their house on their way there.
Corn shucking tapotsihy lunchtime special.
Claudio with a big knife, as all my American friends pointed out. Mama helping me learn to shuck corn.
Mama and me selfie.
My boys with their corn. Ages 5, 8, 6, (don’t know the girl), 1.5 years.
Claudio with his two moms 😛
I would drink coffee with the guy at 5 am everyday for my first couple months. We were Mama Boozy’s only two clients that early.
Maman’ny Cidja with her grandchildren, being just the adorable, naturally gracious woman she is. Her legs have become a chair for two little girls! Sonia, 6, and Sidonie, 1.8 years. Maman’ny Cidja is like the best woman ever. She took care of me. She kept me alive. She nurtured me and was gentle with me. She is so humble. She is the best woman ever.
This adorable little lady grew up before my eyes, too. She was in my original girls’ group that met on Saturday mornings and she is one of the stars of the Waka Waka VIH SIDA song and dance performances! She was 8 when we started and is now 10. I wanted to guide her through her adolescence. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference those two years could make. She was no longer a child and she became so mature. It was beautiful!
Rogelio is my favorite baby in the world. He is so cute and he knows me, and my name! I also watched him grow up completely from 3 weeks to 1 year 8 months or something! Amazing. I was there when he was learning to walk, dance, bat his eyes, talk, everything!
My girl who worked at the best hotely in town. She would sit with me and chat me up if I was eating alone. She knew what I liked and was fun to joke around with.
Coconuts! The best part of my site, food-wise!
My favorite bazary market seller. She was the only one who would negotiate with me on prices and give me kadeus. She sold green beans, carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Once she learned I made green fried tomatoes, she’s always save them for me and give them to me for free. She was so sweet.
Literally my journey to from Madagascar:
We started in DC and flew to Dakar Senegal on our way there, and then I lived in Vatomandry region for two years. On my way home, I flew through Paris and stayed there for a week of fun immersion back into the “real world” aka andafy.